Timothy T. Miller is Co-founder and President of Montivagus Productions.
He is also an attorney and accountant. Timothy Executive Produced the award winning, critically acclaimed films THE SECOND ROOM and ALONG FOR THE RIDE for Montivagus Productions.
He was a member of Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Chicago for over five years as well as the Founding Board member and President of the Chicago area theatre company Stage Two and the national Coast To Coast Theater Company. In addition, he has been an Executive Board member of the Contemporary American Theatre Company in Columbus, Ohio.
Timothy received his B.S. in accounting from the University of Illinois in 1980, and thereafter worked for the accounting firm of Touche, Ross & Company (now Deloitte and Touche) providing accounting services to both publicly and privately held clients. He received his law degree from Loyola University Chicago in 1987, and subsequently worked for the Chicago law firm of Rosenthal and Schanfield, concentrating on tax planning for closely held businesses and their owners.
ENTERTAINMENT LAWYERS – ONE WAY OR THE OTHER YOU’RE GOING TO PAY THE PIPER
What’s the worst thing that can happen to you if you don’t involve a competent entertainment lawyer in your film project? How about success?
It’s not uncommon for first time filmmakers to try and save a buck by foregoing legal consultation on their projects. Good thing for most of them their projects never see the light of day, because if they do manage to catch lightening in a bottle, they soon find out legal consultation is definitely one line item of their budgets where an ounce of prevention is better than a megaton of cure. Let’s face facts. Filmmakers aren’t lawyers, thankfully for them. As a result, filmmakers have no idea that literally every aspect of a film project is smothered in legal red tape that needs to be addressed at the start of the journey.
It all begins with the very concept for a project in the first place. Whose idea was it? That all depends … on discussions, notes, memos, ideas scrawled on napkins and the creative geniuses who were all too willing to offer up their input on the project over cashew chicken and coffee. Did their degree of involvement rise to the level of creative input worthy of obtaining a legal release? Funny how people’s recollections of their involvement change once they smell money or a potential end credit. The same goes for the actual filming of your project. It turns out EVERYTHING appearing in your film and EVERYONE involved in the act of filming has rights, and that includes the people, places, inanimate objects, animals, etc. appearing on the screen AND those responsible for things like booms, cameras, the serving up of cheese plates to hungry cast and crew, the performing of sound tracks, etc.
And while you may not care about all those rights, potential distributors, and more important their errors and omission insurers, most certainly do. At the end of the day if you ever hope to see your project hit the big screen, or even the little screen for that matter, you’ll need to be able to deliver a clean “rights bible” to the distributor. What is a rights bible you ask? It’s a summary of each and EVERY right that ANYONE has in your film and the means by which you obtained those rights. No legitimate distributor would ever distribute a film without first seeing a rights bible that has all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed, and to do that you’re going to need a competent entertainment lawyer. And just in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes – many a great film project has been deep sixed because a filmmaker couldn’t obtain a release from a seemingly insignificant participant. This is one area where flying blind can leave you and your project held hostage by the whims and financial wants of others.
So you see at the end of the day it turns out entertainment lawyers really are a necessity, just like all of the other expenditures on your film. They get you coming or going. The choice of when to pay entertainment lawyers is totally up to you, but keep in mind they’re a lot like parking tickets – much, much cheaper if you pay them up front before your car is impounded. If you want to save a buck, our advice is to dial up the entertainment lawyer before you order in the Chinese. If you do, then you’ll be better in the long run, and so will your project.
The views, opinions and comments expressed in this website are published and maintained for general educational purposes only and are NOT under any circumstances intended to provide legal advice on any subject matter whatsoever. Readers should always consult with their attorneys regarding any and all legal matters, including, but not limited to, those involving their own audio, visual or other film or entertainment projects.